Philosophy Index

Empedocles

Empedocles (490—430 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher.

Empedocles described the structures of the world as composed of four basic elements: earth, wind, water and fire. These roots, as Empedocles called them, were the indestructible and eternal base of all things. The change that is seen in the world is caused by the combination and separation of these elements.

According to Empedocles, the movements of the elements are the result of two divine powers: Love and Strife. By Love, the elements attract and create new structures, whereas by Strife the separate into simpler things.

Empedocles is well-known for his manner of death, which was reported by Diogenes Laërtius. According to this story, Empedocles killed himself by throwing himself into a volcano, specifically Mount Etna in Sicily. Some versions of this story claim that Empedocles thought that he was immortal and did it to prove to his followers that he would return as a god. However, Diogenes Laërtius’ reports that Empedocles killed himself in this manner to create the illusion that he had simply vanished, hoping that others would assume that he had ascended into divinity. Diogenes claims that his ruse was thwarted by a bronze sandal that was rejected by the volcano.

As a result of this legend, a large underwater volcano near Sicily is named Empedocles in his honour.

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Name: Εμπεδοκλης (Empedocles)
Born: 490 BCE
Died: 430 BCE